How To Plan a Theme for Your Preschoolers

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Sometimes we limit our planning by starting out with a theme name in our heads and then try to come up with ideas for each interest center but become stalled for ideas.

Perhaps you have a great idea for a theme to write up for preschool, but where and how do you begin?

I.P.O.P. is the acronym to remember!  

Interesting topic; Print; Organize; Plan.


Plan a Theme


Let's talk themes first!

Before "I POP" the lid off of our theme planning creativity box, let's talk themes!

Traditional Themes

A Transportation theme, for example, is traditional in preschool. Preschoolers love learning about and playing with cars, trucks, airplanes and more.  This topic is part of their everyday lives.  They drive or walk to school, have seen or ridden on a bus or taken an airplane to go on vacation.  This natural interest in something they experience in their lives brings life to the theme.

What about a theme called Sticky?  This is not quite a tradition theme! However, it became very compelling for the students of one classroom!

Non-Traditional Themes

A preschool teacher and her coworker observed that their students seemed extremely curious about how things stuck together from magnets, to bristle blocks to paper.  

The teachers brainstormed together about how to take this new found interest of their preschoolers and develop it into a unit filled with activities the children learn and grow from.

Remember the Purpose of the Theme

Both of the above examples lend to learning.  Activities are provided that promote and support the preschooler's growth and development through a theme that they are naturally interested in.

Preschool themes should be fun, exciting and interesting topics that draw young children into learning.  

Sometimes the purpose is to learn specific details about the theme (for example a Caterpillars-Butterflies Theme or a Weather Theme).

However, the ultimate goal is not to turn the students into experts in lepidopterogy (study of butterflies) or meteorologists!  

Themes are the basis of the activities you create for art, science, math, dramatic play, reading, writing, circle time and more!

And those activities should help them to grow and develop in all areas of development from social skills (taking turns playing a caterpillar board game) to math skills (counting the correct number of butterflies into each numbered cup) to science process skills (learning the process of caterpillar-butterfly, predicting how long it will take, inferring what color butterfly it will become).

So, you see, the theme is just the vehicle we use to draw the children into activities that help them grow and develop.

I.P.O.P. Defined!

I.P.O.P.  is an acronym I use to describe the brainstorming process of theme writing, while keeping the purpose of themes in mind.

=Interesting, fun and exciting theme choice.

=Printing any and all ideas that come to mind about that theme name.

=Organize ideas into interest centers

=Plan daily and weekly lessons

Working Together as a Team

Ericka, a PreK teacher from Texas, shared a quote with me.  It was one that her former principal used to say, 

"Great teachers aren't made; they're borrowed from the teacher next door!"

So share your knowledge and ideas with each other!  Accept each others' ideas and ways to teach!

So, Let's Plan A Theme!

Let's move on and plan a theme!  Here is what you will need:

Your co-worker(s)

An 8 X 10 piece of paper and something to write with.

A very LARGE piece of chart paper and something to write with.

Highlighters of many different colors (one for each interest center!)

Your favorite beverage!

Wendy from Vermont says the following about the I.P.O.P. process:

"I discovered your IPOP process in October and have taught the process to my new teacher.  It works! It helps us to plan for every area in the classroom and we can teach more when the topic is everywhere."  -from Wendy in VT.

I.P.O.P. Steps  

The following links will bring you to each step!

I    Step 1:  Choose an Interesting, fun and exciting theme.

Go to the Plan A Theme Step One of IPOP Page

P    Step 2:  Print/List Ideas  

Go to the Plan A Theme Step Two of IPOP Page

O    Step 3:  Organize.  

Go to the Plan A Theme Step Three of IPOP Page

P    Step 4:  Plan.  

Go to the Plan A Theme Step Four of IPOP Page


Go to Preschool Plan It's Home Page


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